The Blue Jays unveiled the makeup of manager John Farrell's first coaching staff on Monday, adding a trio of fresh faces -- one very familiar to Toronto fans -- to a group of holdovers from last season's cast of coaches.
At Farrell's side will be new bench coach Don Wakamatsu, and assuming first-base coaching duties will be the manager's good friend, Torey Lovullo. Former Blue Jays pitcher Pat Hentgen will take over as bullpen coach, joining a staff that will once again include hitting coach Dwayne Murphy, pitching coach Bruce Walton and third-base coach Brian Butterfield.
With his staff set, Farrell is beginning to have visions of his arrival in Dunedin, Fla., for his inaugural Spring Training as the Blue Jays' skipper.
"We want to be sure that ... when we walk into Dunedin for the first day," Farrell said, "we hit the ground running."
Farrell said that the construction of the coaching staff has its roots in his first phone call with general manager Alex Anthopoulos in September. The pair discussed Farrell's criteria for his staff. He wanted good communicators and teachers, and he wanted them available at any given time on a daily basis during the season.
Those represented the three traits Farrell desired most in his coaches, and he feels the group he will lead this season boasts such characteristics. Farrell also wanted to add a coach who has experience as a catcher, which played a role in former backstop Wakamatsu earning the job as bench coach.
The 47-year-old Wakamatsu most recently served as the manager of the Mariners during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. His managing experience covers six years between stints in the Minors and Majors, and he also worked as a bench coach for the Rangers and A's. His area of expertise is behind the plate, and Farrell believes that will help the continued development of catching prospect J.P. Arencibia.
"Our goal is to make [Arencibia] an everyday catcher behind the plate, leading a pitching staff," Farrell said. "There's further work to be done, and we feel like Don is the right guy for this situation."
Even though he has just been hired by the Blue Jays, Wakamatsu remains linked to the Mets in their search for a new manager. Farrell said that neither Jays president Paul Beeston nor Anthopoulos would block Wakamatsu from interviewing for another job.
"He's a talented guy," Farrell said of Wakamatsu. "There's a long-standing policy here with this organization that if a staff member has an opportunity to better his current situation, he has the ability to do that. I can't confirm if Don has got an interview arranged, but if that were the case, we would cheer him on, but know that we have a very good bench coach and a very good person in this role."
Lovullo, 46, joins the Blue Jays after working most recently as the manager for Triple-A Pawtucket in the Red Sox organization. He spent the previous eight seasons as a manager in the Indians' farm system. Farrell and Lovullo were teammates with the Angels in 1993, and both worked in the Cleveland organization at the same time.
"Torey is someone who I have the longest relationship with," Farrell said. "So if there is that one person that you would confide in, to vent to, just to find a way to deal with the daily frustrations that might emerge, Torey is that guy. We've shared a lot in the past. At the same time, he's an extremely talented coach and potential manager in his own right."
Hentgen, who spent 10 seasons with the Jays and won the American League Cy Young Award in 1996, makes his coaching debut. For the past seven years, the 41-year-old has served as a guest coach for the Jays during Spring Training and also held the title of club ambassador and special assistant to the president and CEO.
"His career and his involvement in this organization clearly speaks for itself," Farrell said. "His working relationship with Bruce, I felt, was another main component in this. Coming in, there was not a clear-cut favorite. Doing my own homework with internal candidates for the bullpen job, that's where Pat really started to emerge."
It was announced that Walton and Butterfield -- well liked and respected by the players -- would be rejoining Toronto's staff during Farrell's introductory news conference last month. It took a little longer for the Jays to announce that Murphy would also be coming back as hitting coach.
Under Murphy's watch last season, the Blue Jays belted a franchise record 257 home runs, which tied for the third-highest single-season total in baseball history. Farrell, who noted that he has had conversations with "about 90 percent" of the players on Toronto's 40-man roster, said that many players pushed for Murphy to be retained.
"There were many guys that pounded the table for him," Farrell said. "Not that they were the deciding voice in all this, but it was great to hear that players believe in him."
Farrell would like to steer the Blue Jays away from the all-or-nothing offensive approach they took on under former manager Cito Gaston last year. With the right mix of hitters, Farrell wants to begin to create an offense that is more balanced and relies less on the home run. He does not believe that will be an issue for Murphy.
"Certainly, Cito had his approach toward an offensive team," Farrell said. "Those thoughts were probably more centered around the home run, or maybe waiting back for a three-run homer, for lack of a better way to describe it. Dwayne is very much in step with our conversations, and I'm excited about him being here."
The additions replace former bench coach Nick Leyva, first-base coach Omar Malave and bullpen coach Rick Langford. Anthopoulos noted at the end of the season that any coaches from the 2010 staff that were not retained would still be offered jobs within the organization.
Farrell said that remains the case.
"They will be offered positions within the organization, yes," he said. "Whether or not they accept them, ultimately, I think those are decisions that will be arrived at here shortly. ... The specifics of those positions have yet to be defined. We're talking about three quality baseball men here with a long career in the game.
"But, I think going forward here, the decision to go with other people, there was a comfort level with what I felt the needs of the staff were."